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Al Maginnes

Where I Was

We have never spoken of those mornings
            when the singular blessing of the unmovable
cold was how quickly it dispersed whiskey fumes
            from the night before. The truck's heater huffed
and coughed but never quite worked, and fingers
            went numb around Styrofoam cups
of coffee that would not be emptied before
            we arrived for another day of battering
frozen earth, coaxing steel, concrete
            and wood to take shape, to rise and hold.
Now, buildings rise without us, and we say
            nothing of what it costs to live like that,
but sometimes I stop the car and stare a while
            as a concrete truck backs up to a pour
or a crane flies a load to the top slab
            of a high rise, and I reach again
into the empty pockets and hard sleep
            of a life that didn't want me to remember
or write down a single word, and touch again
            the cold still ready to hold me.


Self Portrait as Accidental Love Poem

I brought hands red with the clay of our habitat
and fisted around their understanding of how quickly,
how irreversibly things go wrong. I brought a mouth
pursed with indecesion over the dueling wisdoms
that would have me spit away with sour dregs of bad endings
and be done or offer an open-mouthed yes
to the lotions, the bitter sugars that make love's body.

I had torn clothes in need of washing, lopsided boxes
of books, a few tools.
                                I had flowers of blood
on my knuckles, scabs jeweled on my arms,
the grinding knees and the sunburn that make the wages
for days of working by the weather.
                                                         My eye could read
the needle of the gas gauge and know just how far
before the tank's last fumes would leave me
to walk to work until payday.

I offered a tongue in love with curses and poetry,
slow to reason but quick to kiss. It would be
a while before i measured whoat you bore, what scars
and unseen borders becuase
                                                if the notion
of my own salvation was to hold true, how could
the beloved be anything but possibility?

So it took time to settle the terrain we have come to inhabit,
and even if we have drawn maps, constructed dwellings,
named a few small landmarks and their outliers-
The Year of Trying, The Valley of Separation,
The Other Year of Trying, The Garden of Amends-
we would not remain
                                  if we did not wake each morning
to wonder at our fortune in finding
this kind stranger beside us, this one
who saw what we carried and opened the door.


The Anger and Love of Gods

We have so many gods- fire, sex, money-
        that we have created unspoken taboos
                    against their touching. So we try

to hide them all in the guise of one god.
        Thus, our confusion over a god who loves us
                    enough to burn cities,

to wives to salt, drown the world or at least
        the portion of the world visible
                    to Noah and his menagerie.

And while Noah's boat, bearing its load of myth, bellied
        low in the brack of holy flood,
                    somewhere in the dry world,

a woman, widowed by the lightning that struck
        her husband - God's judgment proclaimed
                    to local earth-made prophet-

turned to selling the one commodity left to her after
        the division of her husband's goods
                    among her neighbors. When

she came to the temple to worship, an offering
        of coins heavy in her purse,
                    she was turned away.

The sweating boy is told to walk as far
        into the crowd, as close to the police station
                    as possible, to think of heaven

if his legs start to hail. He will try but will smell
        only the dark reek of cigar smoked
                    by the man driving him here,

who will vanish into traffic but not before
        he touches the boy's arm and says
                    Remember. You do this for love.